This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Media Unspun email newsletter and is Copyright 2002 by Keith Dawson.
M E D I A   U N S P U N
X Marks the Box

All right, we get the message: Microsoft is serious about gaming. Every newspaper and online outlet from Ananova and the BBC to the South China Morning Post carried the story of Microsoft's plans for Xbox Live and the $2 billion investment the company will make in the Xbox platform over the next five years.

In recent weeks Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have all made news with price cuts on their game consoles. Microsoft saved the news of the coming Net-connected gaming service until now to be sure it dominated the headlines just before the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which gets under way tomorrow in Los Angeles.

MSNBC's coverage, based on AP copy, succinctly conveyed the market sizes of the big three: Sony's PlayStation 2 is far ahead with 30 million units in the field. Nintendo's GameCube, starting a year later, has 4.5 million units worldwide. Microsoft's Xbox brings up third with "3.5 million to 4 million consoles by the end of June." (MSNBC quoted the Microsoft vice president identified as the "chief Xbox officer" -- now that's a title.)

The New York Times' John Markoff turned in the killer article on Xbox, at 32 paragraphs. Markoff interviewed Xbox inventor J. Allard for insight on his vision of "social" gaming. The Xbox Live package, when it is available this fall, will include a headset so players can talk live while they compete. The SFGate's Carrie Kirby was not far behind with coverage that contrasted the moves of gaming's Big Three with the desires of gaming fans -- namely, for games that tie in to popular movies. Kirby quoted the president of game developer Electronic Arts, who estimated that fewer than 1 million people will end up connecting an Xbox to the Net: "A million people doing anything isn't going to make a party," he said.

Last week Slashdot commented on coverage of EA's decision to forego producing any games for the Xbox. Slashdotters generally concurred with SFGate's analysis -- that Microsoft's vision of connected gaming, in which all the action takes place over Microsoft servers, is not likely to attract people to a company that wants to control its own pricing and profits. One Slashdot poster quoted a Microsoft VP -- "When you're at Disneyland, there's no trash, no violence and you never see security. That's what we have in mind" -- and added, "Yep, definitely a Microsoft product." - Keith Dawson

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